Guns: Bullet Points

Guns, guns, guns. So much going on. I thought I’d put down, in concise terms, how I feel about guns since a lot of people seem to jump to some rather inaccurate conclusions. What more appropriate way than the use of bullet points?

  • I believe owning a gun makes one less safe, not more safe. This isn’t just a hunch, it’s backed by plenty of evidence.
  • The US would be a better country if guns were:
    • More scarce
    • Harder to get (waiting periods, universal background checks, etc.)
  • I believe no one (outside of military or law enforcement) has a legitimate need for high-capacity assault-style weapons like the AR-15.
  • The epidemic of gun violence in the US is a complex problem requiring complex solutions. There is no simple fix, no one law that will change everything.
  • No, we cannot eliminate all gun violence and that isn’t the goal. We can and should drastically reduce it.
  • Gun control isn’t binary, it’s not all or nothing. So one can advocate for gun control without wanting wholesale confiscation of guns.
  • “Gun control doesn’t work in Chicago you stupid idiot moron leftie!” — Chicago doesn’t have walls, it has open borders. Indiana is right next door and it’s very easy to get a gun there. There are hundreds of millions of guns in the US, there is only so much local regulations can achieve.
  • I do not think the “No Fly List” in its current form is the way to prevent terrorists from getting guns.
  • While I’m not a fan of guns (clearly) I also don’t believe that black people should be killed by police for having one.
  • The NRA is akin to a terrorist organization at this point. It makes meaningless statements like “No guns for terrorists, period.” while impeding any real attempt at reforming gun laws. They intimidate through fear, both for politicians (fear the NRA will support opponents) and regular people (fear that the government is going to take all their guns away, and fear that if you don’t have a gun you’ll fall victim to horrific acts of violence).

This is far from exhaustive. I’ve written plenty about guns, so if you want to know more, check out the “gun” tag.

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Here we are again

Here we are again. Yet another mass shooting in America, this one setting a new record as the deadliest. This time the victims were primarily LGBT and primarily latinx. While geographically distant, it still hits too close to home.

What has changed since the first mass shooting I wrote about here–the murder of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT–in 2012?

Other than a bunch of other shootings happening between then and now, well, nothing.

The same inaction in government. The same bullshit from the NRA and their brain-washed, gun-worshiping minions. The NRA, while spouting meaningless platitudes about their policy being “no guns for terrorists” continues to block any and all attempts to increase gun regulation, while stirring up fear in the masses and pushing the need for guns for self defense.

Despite the obviousness of the fact that having more guns per capita than any other country on Earth has not made us safer, they keep pushing for more and more guns, and people are eating it up.

In 2012, I eviscerated their ridiculous claim that more guns will make us safer and this all still holds true.

And gun nuts, without any evidence, repeatedly claim that gun control won’t work, that bad guys will still get guns and good guys will be defenseless. This claim isn’t based in reality:

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, have much tougher gun laws. According to the CBC, “It takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm in this country, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.” Oh, dear! By the NRA’s logic crime in Canada must be out of control! Is it? No. In fact, there were 598 homicides in the entire country in 2011! How about in the USA? According to the FBI that number was 14,612 last year! OK, to be fair let’s adjust for population differences.

Homicides per 100,000 population (2011):

Canada: 1.73

USA: 4.7

As of 2014 those numbers are down slightly:

Canada: 1.45

USA: 4.5

Would-be heroes are most likely deluding themselves. In 2009, ABC News did an experiment based on actual mass shooting in Illinois, testing the theory that an armed student in the lecture hall could have intervened and stopped the shooter. The theory didn’t fare well. Even the volunteer with the most gun experience was “killed” in the mock-shooting. It’s worth a watch here.

Was this a perfect experiment? No, but it should nonetheless be an eye opener for those who think that untrained civilians with guns have a high chance of successfully intervening against a bad guy with a gun. The blog post I linked above has some anecdotes of failed attempts along these lines, for example:

In February, 2005 David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire (with a MAK-90 semi-automatic rifle) at his ex-wife and child, outside a courthouse! And courthouses, as the NRA correctly pointed out, are already protected by armed security. A civilian, armed with a pistol, attempted to intervene and was shot and killed. Arroyo was able to escape from a gunfight with police, including a trained sniper, and take officers on a car chase before eventually being taken down.

Will something finally change? I wish I could say I thought so. But I’m very skeptical. However, we’re seeing more movement than before. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a 15 hour filibuster on the Senate floor yesterday, with support from many of his Democratic colleagues:

Senate Democrats ended a nearly 15-hour filibuster early Thursday after Republican Party leaders reportedly agreed to allow votes on two proposed gun control measures.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said that a compromise had been reached. Votes would be held on whether to ban people on the government’s terrorist watch list from obtaining gun licenses and whether to expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales, he added.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our legislative branch that a 15 hour filibuster was needed just to get the point of permitting a vote on legislation.

If passed, will these measures be perfect? Will they fix everything? No, and no. The problem is so large, deeply-ingrained and multifaceted, it will be take a great deal of time and effort to really make a serious dent, but we have to start somewhere.

I won’t hold my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

 

The Rat

clipart ratThe police and policing have been in the news a lot in the last few months, starting with the events in Ferguson, MO. I wrote about the police a couple times. And I’ve heard a lot of discussion, and one question has come up a few times. Why don’t the good cops do something about the bad cops? The answer: they’re afraid to. Whistle blowers are called “rats” and “snitches”. They can’t find partners to ride with them and get shitty assignments. Worst of all, they don’t get backup in dangerous situations, meaning they are literally endangering their own lives by coming forward. A case in which all this allegedly happened is that of former Baltimore Police Detective Joseph Crystal.

By all reports, Crystal was a rising star in the BPD, until he saw something he couldn’t keep quiet about: the beating of a drug suspect by a fellow officer.

In fleeing from police, the suspect broke into the home of a woman who was (presumably unknown to him) the girlfriend of a BPD officer (Anthony Williams). The man was arrested and taken away in a police van. But then Officer Williams–who was not involved in the arrest–showed up. The sergeant on scene had the van come back and the suspect brought back into the house where Williams beat him:

“I can hear the assault,” Crystal said. “I hear the banging. I hear the guy hit the floor.

“A couple minutes later, they bring the guy out,” Crystal added. “His shirt’s ripped. He’s having trouble standing. Later on, I found out his ankle was broken. It was obvious not just to any cop but to any person that saw it what had just transpired.”

The battered Green was led back into the police van and driven away.

After consulting with his parents, who were both former NYPD officers, he decided he had to report the incident. His sergeant advised against it: “If you snitch, your career is done. Nobody’s going to work with you.”

He did it anyway. His sergeant was right. What followed were all the things I mentioned above, in addition to having a dead rat placed on his car at his home and his security clearance revoked.

For obvious reasons, Crystal felt he had to quit his job, and he has been unable to find another law enforcement job in the area. He is currently suing the department, the chief and his former supervisor.

Read all the depressing details here.

This is why the good cops don’t do something about the bad cops. The Blue Wall is insurmountable. This is why the police are not capable of policing themselves.

More Guns

This is something that I just now stumbled on, many months after the fact. But it’s still highly relevant, particularly to my recent post about guns. If you didn’t read it (it’s long, I know) my point was in countering the preposterous NRA claim that having more guns would deter violence.

Anyway, this is a post from a friend of mine relating to the mass shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater in the summer of last year. He is a gun owner, a Marine veteran and a police officer. He addresses a slightly different angle than I do, namely how more guns would (or would not) have helped. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I’ll post a couple snippets below.

My Perspective on the Colorado Shooting

If an officer, or two, had been in the theater when this happened they would have been in no better situation then those there to watch the movie.  Someone told me that they would have guns and could have shot back.  Really?  Once the tear gas and shots rang out PANIC also began.  As a police officer, I can tell you that just because I have a gun does not mean I am super man.  Hundreds of people began to run, jump, drop to the floor.  Even the best trained officer would find this situation a nightmare to find out who is doing the shooting and then to even try to take a shot without hitting one of the hundreds of people running.

The other what if … is one concerning a law abiding citizen carrying concealed in the theater….  Again you still have mass panic, disorientation, darkness, lack of formal training and the big one in my mind how do you shoot at a single person without hitting the hundreds that are trying to flee.  My biggest issue with this is what would keep the fleeing people from thinking you were just another gunman in the dark trying to do the same thing the suspect was doing, kill people.

Indeed! If some good Samaritan had been carrying in the theater, he or she may well have been shot (as was such a would-be helper in one of the examples in my Guns post) or have accidentally hit bystanders, as trained police officers did in NYC last year outside the Empire State Building(also an example in my post). And if you do have good & bad guys packing heat, how do you tell them apart in a hyper tense, deadly (not to mention dark) situation?

I’m sharing this because I think it’s an interesting perspective from someone knowledgeable on guns, security and policing. Check it out.

Guns

Yosemite Sam shooting pistols into the airAfter a full week of silence following the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT, the National Rifle Association (NRA) finally held a press conference. They didn’t take any questions, so they might as well have just posted a statement or video response online.

In their statement, they blamed everything but guns for killings: video games, music videos, movies, mental illness and… well, not having enough guns.

There is so much to say about all this. Given my propensity for wordiness I could spend the next several hours writing and still leave some stones unturned. So I will focus in on one thing in this post: The notion that having more guns is a deterrent for violence. It’s an idea completely not rooted in reality.

Let’s start with some anecdotes. Now, anecdotes by themselves do not prove anything, but they can still be very informative.

In November, 2009 Major Nidal Hasan wounded 29 and killed 13 at Ft. Hood, the most populous U.S. military base in the world. Military bases are not know for having a shortage of firearms. (Update: After subsequent shootings at more military installations, I learned that most servicemen on bases in the U.S. aren’t armed. There are, however, armed military police on the bases.)

In March, 1981 president Ronald Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, a police officer and a Secret Service agent were shot. None of them were killed, but Brady and the cop were seriously wounded. The presence of many highly trained, armed men didn’t deter John Hinckley, Jr., the shooter. In the end, he was stopped by a civilian, not by using a gun, but by hitting Hinckley in the head and pulling him to the ground.

INTERMISSION. From the NRA’s statement today: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Oh, really?

In February, 2005 David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire (with a MAK-90 semi-automatic rifle) at his ex-wife and child, outside a courthouse! And courthouses, as the NRA correctly pointed out, are already protected by armed security. A civilian, armed with a pistol, attempted to intervene and was shot and killed. Arroyo was able to escape from a gunfight with police, including a trained sniper, and take officers on a car chase before eventually being taken down.

Less than a day after the shooting in Newtown, a gunman shot a police officer and two employees in a hospital in Alabama before being fatally shot by a second officer. Alabama is a state with relatively lax gun laws. It’s not clear what the gunman’s intentions were, but it sounds like he didn’t open fire until being confronted by police.

These are all instances where the presence of guns did not act as a deterrent to gun violence. In fact, mass shooters often turn their guns on themselves or are shot and killed by police anyway. So while it’s possible that more guns might mean the bad guy gets taken out sooner, it takes some serious denial of facts to say it would be a deterrent.

As an aside, let’s talk about guns stopping the shooter… in August, 2012 in New York City, a workplace dispute turned violent and a shooting in an office near the Empire State Building lead to police shooting at a fleeing suspect–a suspect who had shot the one person he wanted to shoot already. The officers managed to shoot and wound 9 bystanders before killing the gunman. None of the bystanders died, which was more a matter of luck and–probably modern medicine, than anything else.

Back to deterrents. The homicide rate in Chicago is very high. It’s on pace to hit 500 this year, and many of them are gang-related shootings. Now gang members are known for having guns. Surely whoever starts the fight has to know that their targets (or their nearby friends) could well be armed, right? That doesn’t stop them from shooting and it doesn’t stop innocent bystanders, including children, from being killed.

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, have much tougher gun laws. According to the CBC, “It takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm in this country, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.” Oh, dear! By the NRA’s logic crime in Canada must be out of control! Is it? No. In fact, there were 598 homicides in the entire country in 2011! How about in the USA? According to the FBI that number was 14,612 last year! OK, to be fair let’s adjust for population differences.

Homicides per 100,000 population (2011):

Canada: 1.73

USA: 4.7

Shockingly, this rate in the US has been decreasing for the last 5 years, and was 9.0+ in the early 90s!

Well OK, do stricter laws really mean fewer guns in Canada? Yes, as a matter of fact.

Gun ownership per 100 people (2007):

Canada: 30.8

USA: 88.8

I suggest clicking the link above and checking out the infographic, which is quite informative. You can find countries with low gun ownership and high gun-related homicides, but they are mostly places where drug cartels or other criminal organizations are strong and the police/government is weak, such as Mexico, South America and South Africa. You can also see many countries like Canada (and better), like Sweden, Norway, France, New Zealand, Greece, Armenia, Jordan, Spain, Israel, Algeria, the UK, etc. Note that this infographic deals only with firearms and firearm-related homicides, so it doesn’t tell a complete story and should thus be taken with a grain of salt.

The point is that the U.S. should, as the country with the most guns per capita in the world (oh, did I forget to mention that little takeaway from the infographic?) have one of the lowest if not the lowest homicide rates in the world. That is, if the NRA is to be believed. And clearly, without a doubt, it should not.

If you haven’t read enough yet, I will leave you with this little gem, a collection of things Wayne LaPierre, CEO and VP of the NRA–who spoke today–has given us over the years: via ThinkProgress.

Full text of said address is here.